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New Ordinance Aims To Preserve Affordable Housing Around The 606

Pedestrians entering the 606 from Milwaukee Avenue.

The 606, the rails-to-trails project that stretches from Wicker Park to Palmer Square, celebrates the two-year anniversary of its opening on June 6. Real estate prices have skyrocketed since; according to a report from DePaul University's Institute for Housing Studies, single-family housing prices in Humboldt Park and Logan Square have risen 48.2% since the 606 opened. This has raised concerns about preserving affordable housing along the 606. Now, an ordinance introduced to City Council hopes to do that, as interest in extending the trail east and west intensifies.

The Pilot Act for the Preservation of Affordable Housing in the 606 Residential Area seeks to curb gentrification along the trail by imposing higher demolition fees and development fees on developers who want to raze multifamily housing in favor of new single-family homes along the 606's western edge — an area bounded by Western Avenue on the east, Kostner Avenue on the west, Palmer Street on the north and Hirsch Avenue on the south. The fees would be deposited into an affordable housing trust managed by an 11-member board of trustees composed of community groups and local aldermen. Chicago Buildings Department Commissioner Judy Frydland and Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman would also sit on the board.

Under the ordinance, developers who do not designate 50% of new units as affordable housing could incur fees ranging from $300K for a single-family home to $650K for a four-flat. Developers and new landowners seeking to add density to existing sites would be charged $100K for every additional 1,750 SF, and $200K for every 2,500 SF of additional space.

The ordinance's main sponsor, 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado, flipped four sites along the 606 for a $300K profit before the trail opened. Maldonado maintains that these deals were completely transparent.